St. Michael-Albertville School District administrators plan to review the district's emergency procedures, address students' questions and feelings, and help students cope today with Friday's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The district released information today on its response to the national tragedy that left 20 children and six adults dead at the Newtown, CT school. St. Michael Catholic School also sent an email to parents Sunday night.
The full STMA schools information release is attached to this article as a PDF.
"Safety and security of our students and staff is our number one priority," stated an STMA media release. "The district has comprehensive emergencies plans and procedures for fourteen different types of emergencies that are updated annually and are in place to help avoid tragedies such as this one to the extent possible."
STMA's emergency procedures, such as lockdown, evaluation and relocation, and crisis teams, have been developed using information from the Secret Service Agency, state emergency agencies and local law enforcement. Staff and students also practice emergency drills.
"The district has an outstanding and direct relationship with our local law enforcement agencies," stated the district. "The Wright County sheriff’s office and school district fund two school resource officers in the schools who are trained law enforcement officials. STMA will use the details from the Sandy Hook tragedy to review our plans and make any changes."
The district will also immediately provide support and explanation to students in the aftermath of the national tragedy.
"As children return to school on Monday, school personnel will help children cope first and foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security," stated the STMA schools media release. "As more information becomes available, adults can continue to help children work through their emotions and perhaps even use the process as a learning experience."
The school states it recognizes that Monday brings a mix of student reaction — some may come to school with no awareness of the incident, while others have seen the television media coverage or discussed it with parents over the weekend.
"Whenever a national tragedy occurs such as at Sandy Hook, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened," stated the release. "Most likely, they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react."
Explanations of the tragedy at school will be age-appropriate, and staff will address concerns as they come individually instead of having a structured activity around the event.
The schools plan age-appropriate explanations with the following plan for each age group, according to the district statement:
• Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Children are given simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
• Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discussions may focus on efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
• Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Discussions may emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
Current district procedures will be applied Monday to address the tragedy, including:
- Making sure students are safe at all times
- Maintain structure and stability within schools
- Monitor students for signs of fear, anxiety or emotional stress and notify parents or school psychologist as necessary
- Be aware of students who have recently experience a personal tragedy or who know victims or their families and provide extra support
- Provide teachers with what to say to students
- Monitor or restrict viewing scenes of the shooting.
District administrators, teachers and staff encourage parents to contact their child's school if they have questions about the district's response, have questions on how to respond to their child's concerns, or if they are concerned about their child's response to the tragedy.
"Our thoughts and prayers are for the children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the community and families of Newtown affected by the tragedy," the district stated. "While the shooting happened somewhere else, we grieve as parents, educators and community members for the senseless loss of lives."